As one of the best games of 2009, ‘Batman Arkham Asylum’, set the standard for superhero video games. It’s successor ‘Arkham City’, then had a lot more pressure on it to live up to the brilliance of the first, the question is: has it delivered? Yes, yes it has.
First things first, I’ve played only 20% of the game due to renting it for a week on release day, although I’ve only in a small section of the game, I still feel that this is THE game of 2011. It expands on the awesome gameplay of the first and raises it that extra level. The world is now less claustrophobic, and allows the player, as Batman, to fly about the place like the real life, grappling from ledge to ledge as freely as ever before. Extra DLC for the allies Catwoman and Robin have been added to allow the player to experience different viewpoints rather than just the big, bulky strength of Batman. However, I have played neither of these due to not having received any codes in my game.
The cast, is way bigger than ‘Asylum’, featuring the recognisable ‘movie villains’ such as the Joker, Penguin and Mr Freeze alongside hallmarks of the comic books, like Bane, Ra’s Al-Ghul and Hugo Strange, and these are only some of those that I have met throughout my 6 or 7 hours with the game. I’d be more than willing to bet that many more ‘big-name’ enemies enter the game at latter stages in the story. This makes the game feel nice and full with many different characters having to settle with side-mission cameo roles, some also aren’t typical ‘villains’ as such with the likes of Bane and Mr Freeze having to join up with Batman to defeat a bigger cause. The cast are brought to life excellently by a fantastic voice cast, Joker amongst others really stealing the show with a number of funny, yet crazy lines. Alongside Heath Ledger’s Joker, this video game Joker, voiced by Mark Hamill, is my favourite Joker of all time. The characters work to form what is, once again, a gripping storyline, as things fall into place and the villains and allies alike are all used as much as possible, but never really OVER-used. It features many twists and turns, and that’s only in the 20% I’ve played of it!
This brings me onto the influences of the films of the franchise on this game. Whilst the game is it’s own wonderously-crafted world, the recent Christopher Nolan and solitary Tim Burton film are echoed in spirit throughout. Nolan’s very serious and realistic movies can be seen in the characterisation of Batman and the world around him, as Arkham City is a pretty grim place, a new facility in Gotham to replace the old Asylum. Infact, the game is played out entirely at night, as the darkness provides the background for one lovely little feature: the Bat-signal highlights the player’s current objective, a sight which will please hardcore fans of the series, and even movie fans, such as myself. Characters like Joker, Mr Freeze and Riddler bring to life the mad world created in Burton’s film.
So, aside from the cracking storyline, the player can also encounter a tonne of side-missons and riddles set by the Riddler to earn his trophies. The side-missions are as worthy as the story, with the inclusion of several big-name characters, Bane, Zsasz and even Poison Ivy in some of Catwoman’s missions. The variety is also very nice, with scuffles between inmates to break up, ringing phones to answer and containers to destroy, all requiring further use of the different mechanics the game provides. The Riddler trophies also require a level of intelligence and the use of the various gadgets as the player acquires them through progression in the story. Some can also only be gained via the use of Catwoman, restricting those who don’t have her DLC and almost forcing them to go out and buy it if they want to reach 100&% completion.
The level of gadgets is also the exact same as the end of ‘Arkham Asylum’, but with new devices such as electricity shocks, a vertical line gun and a freeze device, from Mr Freeze himself. These all offer various avenues for gameplay, and different ways to play the game. The awesome Detective Mode, also returns and is for the strategists amongst players, giving markers for the player to where they should attack next and how to take the enemy out. Also returning are the challenge maps, offering standalone challenges with my favourite part of the game, the rooms full of enemies to take out, being set with objectives of how to take them out, one at a time.
Overall, even at this early stage, I can tell that ‘Arkham City’, is the complete package, a brilliant story, decent range of side missions and challenge maps, something for every player! For these reasons I’m going to give it 5/5.